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Crafting a Corset 

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Crafting a Corset 

Written By: Alaina Zulli 



Awl (1) 

Decorative outer fabric (1 yard) 

Evelettool (1) 

Linina fabric (1 vard) 

Grommet setter (1) 

Thread (1) 

Hammer (1) 

• Buskm 

Needlenose pliers (1) 

Boning (10-meter roll) 

Ruler (1) 

/elv, vou can 

Scissors (1) 

Sewing machine (1) 

Sewing pins (1) 

bonina ne 

Wire cutters (1) 

Boning tips (3 dozen) 

of sprina steel comes 

Bone casing tape (7 meters) 

1 bv the roll. 

Grosqrain ribbon (1 yard, 1" wide) 

Corset lacing (2 meters) 


Corset-making may seem like a job only for the professionals, but anyone who can sew a 
straight line on the sewing machine can do this project. 

Corsets require more materials than the average sewing project, so I recommend getting all 
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Crafting a Corset 

your shopping done in one go. Farthingales has everything you'll need, plus a great selection 
of fabric and patterns. 

You can use any crisp woven fabric for the decorative ("self") outer layer. I am using a white 
damask cotton blend for the demonstration, but taffeta, satin, crepe-backed satin, duppioni, 
brocade, jacquard, or twill would also work. The inner ("lining") layer should be a firmly 
woven cotton or cotton blend. Coutil is the traditional material for corsets, but canvas, duck, 
or twill are also fine. 

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Crafting a Corset 

Step 1 — Gather materials and tools. 

• Collect all the materials listed above, and organize the tools you need. 

• Clear your workspace. 

Step 2 — Print, assemble, and cut the pattern. 

• The sizes range from 6 to 26. To 
determine your size, take your bust 
measurement (over a normal, non- 
push-up bra), waist (approximately 
2" above the navel), and hip 
(approximately 8" below the waist). 

• The pattern allows for about 
2" of ease (also known as 
"spring") at the back, so don't freak 
out if when you measure the 
pattern it seems small. If you are 
between sizes, round down to the 
smaller size. If you want to be able 
to lace tighter, use a smaller waist 
size and blend the cutting lines. 

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Crafting a Corset 

Step 3 — Prepare the fabric. 

• Cutting on the grain is particularly 
important in making corsets. Make 
sure the threads of both your 
decorative and lining fabrics are 
perpendicular by stretching and 
blocking them. 

• To block, pull the fabric on the bias 
in both directions. This will loosen 
the threads and help them to 
realign themselves. Then iron, 
pushing the iron along the grain line 
and the cross-grain. When you fold 
the fabric in half there should be no 
distortion and the edges should 

• Lay out your pattern with the grain 
line following the direction with the 
most amount of stretch. For most 
fabrics, this will be on the cross- 
grain, opposite from how you would 
cut most patterns. You want the 
least amount of stretch in the 
direction of the fabric encircling 
your waist. Historically, corsets 
were sometimes cut on the bias to 
mold to the body, but for this style 
of corset you will want as little 
stretch around the body as 

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Crafting a Corset 

Step 4 — Lay out the pattern. 

• To make sure each piece is properly aligned, measure from the grain line to the edge of 
the fabric. I know that it is tempting to skip this step. Don't! If ever there were a time to be 
a perfectionist, this is it. 

• Pin the pieces on the fabric. Alternatively, weight the pieces with stones or pattern weights 
and trace the cutting lines with chalk. I prefer the latter method because there is less 
distortion while cutting. 

• Cut the pieces very precisely. Remember that if you cut just 1/16" larger on each seam, 
your corset will end up about 1.5" bigger. 

• In addition to the pieces in the pattern given in Part 1, you will need 2 back-facing pieces, 
3"x16", in both self and lining, and 2 front-facing pieces, about 2"x16". 

• If your self fabric is fairly stable you can use only self for the front facing. If it 
threatens to fray under stress, cut pieces of lining to stabilize it. 

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Crafting a Corset 

Step 5 — Baste and press. 

» I like to mark my pieces in tailor's wax with their piece number to keep track of which side 
is the wrong side. Hand-baste each self piece to the corresponding lining piece. You'll be 
tempted to skip this step, but I assure you it is crucial! This is called flat-lining. In this 
case, the purpose of the lining is to support the decorative outer fabric and reduce wear, 
not to hide seam allowances as with most ready-to-wear. 

t Baste with long (.5"-. 75") stitches along the long sides from bottom to top. Don't baste the 
bottom and top edges, because your 2 layers will shift during sewing and you will end up 
with bubbles. 

• Press from the center of each piece, taking care not to slide the iron. You'll notice that any 
sliding will cause ripples in the layers, so just press straight down. The pressing is an 
important step. I can't explain why (static? the heat makes the fibers mesh together?) but 
it will help you keep everything together when you assemble the pieces. 

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Crafting a Corset 

Step 6 — Assemble the pieces. 

• With your clear plastic ruler and chalk, mark the sewing lines on the tips of the gores. 

• Lay out your pieces in order of assembly. This will prevent sewing the wrong ones 
together, which is easy to do with so many fiddly little pieces. 

• Sew together the corset using 5/8" seams (see Step 4 for seam variation). Match the 
notches, and stitch from top to bottom. There may be some small amount of distortion as 
you sew, so don't worry too much if the top and bottom edges don't line up exactly. You'll 
trim that later. However, if your pieces are mismatched by more than about 1/4", you'll 
know something is wrong! 

Step 7 — Press and trim. 

• Press all of the seam allowances towards the back. At the tip of the gores, you'll need to 
clip one side of the seam allowance so that it can lie flat. 

• Trim the bottom 3 layers of each seam to about 1/4". I'm using applique scissors, which 
are great because their bottom blade doesn't catch on the fabric. 

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Crafting a Corset 

Step 8 — Flat-fell. 

• Technically, flat-felling is done on 
the right side of the garment, as on 
a pair of jeans. You can do it this 
way if you want extra seam 
definition in your corset. You'll have 
to assemble the garment (Step 2) 

• I do my flat-felling inside. To flat- 
fell, finger-press the top seam 
allowance under, and topstitch 
along the edge. If you want even 
more seam definition (and 
strength), topstitch 1/16" from the 
seam. From the outside, this will 
give you the impression of 
channels running approximately 
3/16" wide. 

• Flat-fell all of the body seams first, 
and do the gores last. 

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Crafting a Corset 

Step 9 — Attach the waist ribbon. 

• Cut 2 lengths of grosgrain ribbon. To determine the length of each, take your desired waist 
size, add 2" for the seam allowance, and divide by 2. 

• To find the waist of your corset, pull your corset until you find the line of most tension. The 
waist ribbon will be slightly tilted, not directly perpendicular to the grain. 

• Machine-baste the ribbon at the center front and center back. Make sure the ribbon 
matches evenly on both sides of the corset. 

• Hand-baste along the length of the ribbon to hold it in place while you sew the boning 
channels later on. 

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Crafting a Corset 

Step 10 — Sew the back facing. 

• Each back facing will hold a bone along the back edge, a row of grommets for lacing, and 
another bone for sturdiness. 

• Sew the back facing to the corset with a 5/8" seam. Press open, and then press the facing 
in, making sure the edge is crisp. Topstitch 1/6" from the back edge. 

• To form the first boning channel, sew 3/8" from the topstitching. It is very important that 
you never sew less than a 1/4" channel, or your bone will not fit. If you must err, err on the 
side of more room. However, don't overestimate, since you don't want your bones sliding 
all around. I like to mark my stitching line with chalk. 

• Sew another line 5/8" from the last stitching line, to form the grommet channel. Finally, trim 
the facing about 1" from the last stitching line. Turn the raw edge under, and sew your last 
stitching line to form a channel 3/8" wide. 

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Crafting a Corset 

Step 11 — Sew the boning channels. 

• I sew one channel in the center of 
each piece, plus one alongside the 
busk. Corsetiers have all manner 
of boning techniques, bending them 
precisely around the body to 
ensure greatest fit, but I find 
straight up-and-down boning 
sufficient for this style corset. 

• I recommend using bone casing 
tape. It's inexpensive and easy to 
use. If you're feeling thrifty and 
DIY, you can use 1" strips of your 
lining fabric. 

• Make sure your boning channels 
are more or less 3/8" wide. More is 
better than less, but try not to 
deviate too far. 

• On this corset, I have 
turned under the bottom of 
each boning casing at each of the 3 
back pieces. There is no need for 
stiffening over the flesh of the 
buttocks. If your derriere is 
significantly larger than your hip, 
extend the boning casings to the 
end to keep the corset straight. I 
extended the front casings to the 
edge so that the corset would not 
fold up in wearing. 


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Crafting a Corset 

Step 12 — Insert the right (eye) side of the busk. 

• Pin or hand-baste the facing to the right side of the corset front. Using your clear plastic 
ruler, draw your stitching line in chalk 5/8" from edge. Position the right side of your busk 
(the eye/loop side) about 3/4" from the top edge. The bottom of the corset will extend 
several inches past your busk. This is fine -- you can add hooks and eyes at the end if you 

• Mark off in chalk on either side of each eye. Sew from the top, skipping the areas that the 
eyes will go through. Make a couple of backstitches at the open and close of each gap. 

• Using your zipper foot, sew the facing on as close to the edge of the busk as possible. 
Sometimes I hand-baste first if the fabric is slippery. 

• Trim the facing to about 1", and finger-press under. Sew a boning channel a scant 3/8" 

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Crafting a Corset 

Step 13 — Insert the left (knob) side of the busk. 

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Crafting a Corset 

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• On the left corset half, sew the 
front facing to the center front edge 
in a 5/8" seam. Press the seam 
open, then press the facing in. 

• You'll notice that the knobs are 
closer to one edge than the 
other. The closer edge should be at 
center front. 

• You'll notice that the knobs are 
closer to one edge than the 
other. The closer edge should be at 
center front. 

• Using an awl, push a hole through 
the top layers of the left side (all 
layers except for the facing and 
facing seam allowance). Work the 
awl around a little to loosen the 
yarns. Don't cut the threads! This 
will weaken the area and make 
ripping during use more likely. 

• Push the first knob through the 
hole. I use my awl to gently work 
the threads over and around the 
head of the knob. I usually have to 
work the hole open a few times to 
get it wide enough to go around the 

• If you absolutely can't get the knob 
through, try going only through the 
fabric and lining, not the seam 
allowances. Repeat for all the 

• Using a zipper foot, sew the facing 
as close to the busk as possible. I 
prefer to sew from the right side, to 

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Crafting a Corset 

avoid getting the knobs stuck in the 
needle plate. Sometimes I baste it 
by hand to keep all the layers in 

Step 14 — Insert the bones. 

• If you're buying your boning pre-cut, this is the step where you measure the length of each 
channel (remember to subtract a generous 5/8" from both the top and the bottom for the 
seam allowance). If you bought a coil of boning and are cutting your own, read on. 

• I cut, tip, and insert each bone separately. This probably takes more time than if I did it all 
in a batch, but I find it easiest this way because it is so easy to get the bones mixed up. 

• To cut, find the correct length by laying the boning on the channel, taking care to not 
extend the boning into the seam allowance. At the same time, you don't want the boning to 
be too short, because too little vertical support could lead to wrinkling. Therefore, try to be 
precise in your measurement. 

• Cut the bones with wire cutters. I usually find mere strength and metal insufficient, so I 
bend the boning back and forth to break it off. I find that the slightly jagged edge helps to 
anchor the boning tip. 

• Attach a tip to each end of each bone. Farthingales has their own set of instructions, and 
they are good. However, I find the two sets of pliers unnecessary and usually just chew 
around the tip until it sticks. If I'm really desperate I use glue. Tipping bones takes some 
practice, so don't despair if the first dozen don't stick on. That's why I had you purchase 
extra tips. 

• If you haven't already, sew a stay-stitch along the bottom edges of your corset. 

• Insert the bones. Sew a stay-stitch along the top edge, taking great care not to break your 
needle when you come near the bones. I often sew this with my zipper foot. 

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Crafting a Corset 

Step 15 — Bind the edges. 


• Bind the top and bottom edges of 
the corset. Usually I cut bias strips 
from the self-fabric 2" wide. You 
can also use a matching bias tape, 
piping, or whatever takes your 

• To attach the bias strips, I usually 
sew them in a 3/8" seam right-side 
to right-side, turn under, and whip 
to the inside by hand. For Becky's 
corset, I stitched the bias down 
from the front side (called stitch-in- 
the-ditch). Then I did a catch-stitch 
over the raw edge inside in pink 
thread, which I think gives a 
beautiful hand-made finish. 

Step 16 — Insert the grommets. 

• Plan your grommet placement so that the top and bottom sets are near the edging. Space 
the grommets so that they are about 1"-1 .5" apart. The spacing will differ according to the 
exact length of your finished corset. 

• I always try to make a set of grommets at the waist slightly closer together to designate 
where to position the lacing. This will make more sense in Step 6. 

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Crafting a Corset 

Step 17 — Lace your corset. 

• You'll need approximately 5 yards 
of lacing. Ribbon and twill have 
historically been used for lacing, 
but I find that they do not hold up 
as well as flat lacing or cable cord. 

• Have you ever spent your gym 
period picking apart that plastic bit 
on the end of your sneaker lacing? 
You can finish your corset laces 
with the very same stuff. 
Farthingales sells it by the foot. To 
apply, sew around the ends of your 
lacing, and then thread through the 
tubing. Hold the tube over a flame 
until it melts slightly into the lacing. 

• To lace your corset, start at the top 
and lace in criss-crosses down to 
the waist. At the waist, lace two at 
the outside. You can see this best 
in the illustration. The point is to 
get the lacing at the waistline, so 
that when you pull, the most 
tension is at the waist. 

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Crafting a Corset 

Step 18 — Try it on! 


• You will have probably already tried 
it on, but if you haven't, now is the 
time! The top of the corset should 
be just past the nipple. The bottom 
will extend over your hips, but 
shouldn't ride up and cause 
horizontal wrinkles. 

• Pull the corset from the loops 
formed at the waist. Traditionally, 
corsets were often tied in front, but 
you can choose to tie yours in front 
or back according to style. 

st generated on 2013-02-09 08:36:53 AM. 

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